One perk of being a book reviewer is that publishers regularly send emails, catalogs, and a steady stream of advanced review copies.
I try to review as many as I can, but I can’t get to them all. So each month I highlight a few new and upcoming books that I’m particularly excited about.
(The descriptions below are either from the publisher or from Amazon.)
St. Peter’s Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found…and Then Lost and Found Again
by Thomas J. Craughwell
Image, 144 pages, paperback
Released on January 14, 2014
In this fascinating account of the search for the remains of the world’s first pope, none other than Peter, the chief apostle of Jesus, Thomas J. Craughwell takes us on one of the most exciting archaeological finds of the twentieth century.
In 1448 a team of architects and engineers brought Pope Nicholas V unhappy news: the 1,100-year-old Basilica of St. Peter suffered from so many structural defects that it was beyond repair. The only solution was to pull down the old church–one of the most venerable churches in all of Christiandom–and erect a new basilica on the site. Incredibly, one of the tombs the builders paved over was the resting place of St. Peter.
Then in 1939, while reconstructing the grottoes below St. Peter’s Basilica, a workman’s shovel struck not dirt or rock but open air. After inspecting what could be seen through the hole they’d made in the mausoleum’s roof, Pope Pius XII secretly authorized a full-scale excavation. What lay beneath? The answer and the adventure await. In this riveting history, facts, traditions, and faith collide to reveal the investigation, betrayals, and mystery behind St. Peter’s burial place.
Letter & Spirit, Vol. 8: Promise and Fulfillment: The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments
edited by Dr. Scott Hahn
Emmaus Road Publishing, 230 pages, hardcover
Released on December 30, 2013
Promise and Fulfillment: The Relationship Between the Old and the New Testaments is the eight volume in the acclaimed series from Scott Hahn’s St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Letter & Spirit, the most widely read journal of Catholic Biblical Theology in English, seeks to foster a deeper conversation about the Bible. The series takes a crucial step toward recovering the fundamental link between the literary and historical study of Scripture and its religious and spiritual meaning in the Church’s liturgy and Tradition.
This volume features an all–star lineup tackling one of the oldest questions in Christian biblical scholarship — the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Highlights include Hahn’s essay on the meaning of covenant in Hebrews 9 and Brant Pitre’s reading of the parable of the Royal Wedding Feast (Matt 22:1–14) against the backdrop of Jewish Scripture and tradition.
From the Editors’ introduction: On the day of his resurrection, Jesus’ exposition to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25 27, 32) and shortly afterwards to his eleven apostles and other disciples (Luke 24:44 47) included “all the scriptures” “beginning with Moses and all the prophets.” An idea implicit and underlying Jesus’ expositions in these two episodes is that a unity of purpose exists throughout the many diverse sacred books of the Old Testament. Jesus discerned there a story line, an orderly plan—a Divine economy—unfolding throughout history and expressed in the inspired record that would culminate in his own saving work. The idea of Typology is implicit and flows from this unified story—this Divine economy—that we find in the Bible. The scriptures encompass a single story, but it is composed of two parts: the Old Testament and the New…The other New Testament writers follow his example in applying “all the scriptures” to the doctrine of the church and Christian moral, ascetical, and sacramental life. It is not merely, or even primarily, a correspondence of prediction and fulfillment. It is, rather, a pattern of analogy. What began in the Old Testament is fulfilled partially even within the Old Testament, but definitively in the New, in a way that is both restorative and transformative…This issue of Letter & Spirit seeks to explain and demonstrate the propriety and necessity of interpreting the Bible using the hermeneutics of the divine economy and typology.
Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job
by Kerry Weber
Loyola Press, 160 pages, hardcover
Released on February 1, 2014
When Jesus asked us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and visit the imprisoned, he didn’t mean it literally, right? Kerry Weber, a modern, young, single woman in New York City sets out to see if she can practice the Corporal Works of Mercy in an authentic, personal, meaningful manner while maintaining a full, robust, regular life. Weber, a lay Catholic, explores the Works of Mercy in the real world, with a gut-level honesty and transparency that people of urban, country, and suburban locals alike can relate to. Mercy in the City is for anyone who is struggling to live in a meaningful, merciful way amid the pressures of “real life.”
For those who feel they are already overscheduled and too busy, for those who assume that they are not “religious enough” to practice the Works of Mercy, for those who worry that they are alone in their efforts to live an authentic life, Mercy in the City proves that by living as people for others, we learn to connect as people of faith.
by Patrick Ahern
Image, 128 pages, hardcover
Released on February 4, 2014
Transformation in our lives happens when we live with the confidence that “God is nothing but mercy and love.” In this inspiring book, beloved author Patrick Ahern looks at the teachings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, through the lens of his own personal experiences in which this “saint for our times” played such an important role for more than seventy years. With honesty and humility, he delves into the transformational love that infused her faith, led her to be named one of only four female Doctors of the Catholic Church, and gave Ahern’s own journey direction and meaning.
Ahern focuses on what he calls the three gifts of Thérèse: her universal appeal, her conviction, and her little way. Echoing Therese’s recognition that bureaucracy, penances, rules and commandments miss the message of love that she knew to be true, he says, “She convinced me that someone as ordinary as I could aspire to the love of God, which filled her heart to overflowing.” He hopes the same for his readers.
by Christian Smith
Oxford University Press, 337 pages, hardcover
Released on March 4, 2014
Studies of young American Catholics over the last three decades suggest a growing crisis in the Catholic Church: compared to their elders, young Catholics are looking to the Church less as they form their identities, and fewer of them can even explain what it means to be Catholic and why that matters.
Young Catholic America, the latest book based on the groundbreaking National Study of Youth and Religion, explores a crucial stage in the life of Catholics. Drawing on in-depth surveys and interviews of Catholics and ex-Catholics ages 18 to 23–a demographic commonly known as early “emerging adulthood”–leading sociologist Christian Smith and his colleagues offer a wealth of insight into the wide variety of religious practices and beliefs among young Catholics today, the early influences and life-altering events that lead them to embrace the Church or abandon it, and how being Catholic affects them as they become full-fledged adults. Beyond its rich collection of statistical data, the book includes vivid case studies of individuals spanning a full decade, as well as insight into the twentieth-century events that helped to shape the Church and its members in America.
An innovative contribution to what we know about religion in the United States and the evolving Catholic Church, Young Catholic America is the definitive source for anyone seeking to understand what it means to be young and Catholic in America today.
What new and notable books are you looking forward to?